Monday, 11 April 2011

Individual Interests and Mass Uprising

Last week a bizarre and an unexpected drama played out on our national stage. Anna Hazare, a Gandhian of some repute and a definitive following, started a fast-unto-death to push the government into drafting a rigorous anti-corruption bill - a Jan Lokpal bill had already been drafted as a guideline. Both the tactic and timing were shrewd; the many middle-east uprisings had stirred hope in people's power and the recent spate of wiki leaks had exposed the gigantic and corrupt collusion of corporate and political nexus, funded by the national tax payer.  People, primarily the middle class, and especially the youth, reacted on an unprecedented scale, pouring into open street, parks, open grounds around the nation in thousands, and tens of thousands in support of Anna Hazare and his call for anti-corruption. A simultaneous fury of protests in support, rose across the nation, and lasted but four days; then the government capitulated accepting most demands.

Now, here's the thing: many people have fasted longer, protested more passionately, for rights even more fundamental than corruption..for example, say, right to life, right to not be raped, repressed, displaced; fundamental right to own property and a share in national's natural resources; right not be caught in chemical or nuclear disasters, right to seek one's own freedom, of different forms. I agree, corruption is a vile, pervasive evil that permeates the very pores of our nationhood and it should be eradicated...but what about one's right to life, livelihood, land and freedom? Surely, these are staggeringly more important to human life and society than a 2G scandal. So...what caused our middle class, besotted with malls, TV and cricket to suddenly pour into streets? Which Pied Piper's call were they answering?

Only one answer stands out, above every other possibility. Self interest, or more simply, pure selfishness. I have been struggling with what causes revolutions or rather who causes revolutions. It seems increasingly clear that battles for changes arise from the losing side, by those who have suffered, joining arms to fight against tyranny - together. In cases of the ten year and longer fast of Irom Sharmila for ending the draconian and unbearably repressive AFSPA, or Himanshu Kumar's fast for the causes of tribals in Chattisgarh, or the huge and decades long Narmada Bachao Andolan, for a right of people to not be forcibly displaced, or the killings of children and youth in Kashmir, last year, the same middle class sat and watched all this and more, on TV, as they would a sitcom in comforts of their own homes and their own apathies. These were battles of the 'others', in which the Indian middle class was a winning beneficiary. As Bush once said " we fight wars for preserving a way-of-life" - of constant avarice and greed or 'development'. We fight these wars by our government, in our name, against our fellow nationals, not ready to face the wrong of it, since we benefit by it.

I want to know, when will we ALL, enter the battlefield, at the sacrifice of our own comfort, greed, and capital, because it is the right thing to do? When will we fight for the right and the righteous, because we cannot bear so much wrong? When we will ALL do this and thereby win?over wrong?

1 comment:

  1. The sad truth is a lot of us are ignorant. How does the passing of an Anti-corruption bill put an end to corruption? How do any bills help I ask!!? The bill gets passed and then what? Does it mean that the plight of migrant workers,our country's working children, farmers losing land to mining companies and other ongoing atrocities end? I don't see the big picture. A complete re-education is necessary for the large majority. Lack of transparency has resulted in not just apathy but people who believe they live 'outside' the system and not wanting a part in it.
    This however does not mean that we don't fight in our own way to make a difference. Then again, I ask but do we not do it for ourselves? !